UK Policy Objectives
Targets and Current Bioenergy Usage
In 2009, the UK published a Renewable Energy Strategy. This strategy set out a path to meet the legally binding targets of ensuring 15% of energy came from renewable sources by 2020. At the time, only 3% of the energy came from renewable sources. The UK was legally bound to provide for 15% of its energy needs) – including 30% of its electricity, 12% of its heat, and 10% of its transport fuel-from renewable sources by 2020.
National Grid have outlined by how much renewables have increased during this period. By 2013, electrical generation had increased to 14.6%. In 2020, renewables contributed 43.1% to the electricity mix in the UK, exceeding the target set in 2009 by 13.1%.
BEIS’ 2021 Energy in Brief outlines the split between the UK’s renewable energy sources – with bioenergy contributing 61% to the mix (see graph below).
Outlined in the the Digest of UK Energy Statistics (Dukes): renewable sources of energy 2015, 22.3% of electricity, 5.6% of heat, and 4.2% of transport fuel consumption was met by renewable sources: this equates to 8.3% of all energy. Given the 15% target (which itself is low compared to all other EU countries) was only 3 years away, the Government had a major challenge. The DUKES 2021 outlines that in 2020, 6.6% of heat was from renewable sources 10.3% of transport was from renewable sources – indicating the heat sub target set in 2009 was missed, and unless drastic measures are taken to deploy low-carbon heating methods in the UK, the trajectory signals 12% of heat from renewables will not be met for many years.
The UK’s Vision on Biomass
A Biomass Policy Statement was released in November 2021. This outlines the government’s intentions in developing policy proposals and plans for biomass deployment in the route to net-zero, and focusses on the following:
- ‘priority use principles for the use of biomass in the short, medium and long term to meet net zero, and to support the development of a priority use framework for the Biomass Strategy’
- ‘the key policy aims for sustainable biomass use across the economy, such as in the electricity, heat, transport and industry sectors’
- ‘the government’s view of the role bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) can play in contributing to net zero and the potential routes for BECCS deployment’
- ‘a summary of research and innovation gaps which need to be addressed to enable biomass, bioenergy technologies, and the wider bioeconomy to deliver net zero, and ongoing and planned projects that will inform the Biomass Strategy’
The understanding that further research and innovation will be required to enable wider bioenergy delivery is being addressed. The UK government is providing £30 million in funding to support innovation through the Biomass Feedstocks Innovation Programme. Phase 1 of this programme has finished, which focused on project development, with Phase 2 running from 2022 to 2025 which will involve the development of design stages into innovation demonstration – showcasing growing methods to produce and deploy low carbon energy.
A Biomass Strategy for the UK was released by the government in August 2023, which aims to build on the 2012 Bioenergy Strategy. This is in response to the Committee on Climate Change’s 2020 progress report, which called for a refreshed strategy on the utilisation of biomass and waste towards net-zero 2050.
The Biomass Strategy sets out steps government intends to take to strengthen biomass sustainability and the opportunities for the use of sustainable biomass across multiple sectors of the economy in support of achieving the UK’s net zero target.